PHNOM PENH, April 25 — The death of an elephant who collapsed shortly after ferrying two tourists in Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex in sweltering conditions has sparked outrage on social media.
Photos posted to Facebook by user Yem Senok, which showed the carcass of the female elephant lying on her side by the road in Siem Reap, have been shared over 8,000 times.
According to the Phnom Penh Post, the elephant named Sambo, who was estimated to be around 45 years old, died near Bakheng Mountain on Friday, shortly after ferrying two tourists to one of the archaeological park’s temples.
She had been walking for about 40 minutes, said a spokesman from the Angkor Elephant Company, who added that they were saddened by the loss.
A spokesman was quoted as saying, “After our veterinarian checked... we concluded that she died of heart attack due to high temperatures and lack of wind.”
Phnom Penh Post added the temperature in Siem Reap hit 40°C on Friday.
The elephant had been working for the company since 2001.
A post on TripAdvisor written by Nicola4242 and dated November 6, 2011 claimed that Sambo — if it is the same elephant — had visible feet infections and appeared to be in pain when she walked.
Jack Highwood of the Cambodia-based conservation group Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment told Phnom Penh Post that there are still 13 elephants working for the Angkor Elephant Company, which is said to be the largest concentration of captive elephants in the country.
A petition has appeared on Change.org, calling for an end to elephant riding at the Unesco World Heritage site.
It has garnered almost 13,000 signatures at the time of writing.